A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday struck out a suit challenging the validity of the trial of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on charges of breach of code of conduct for public officers and asset declaration breaches preferred against him before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole struck out the suit following an oral application by a lawyer from the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mrs. H. M. Eken.
When the case was called on Wednesday, Eken noted that the plaintiff, Timipa Jenkins Okponipere, who filed the suit on behalf of the Senate President, was absent from court.=
The lawyer argued that the applicant’s absence from court implied lack of diligence on his part to prosecute the case.
She urged the court not only to strike out the suit, but to also award N20,000 cost against the applicant.
In his ruling, Justice Kolawole noted that on the previous adjourned date of September 29, 2016 neither the applicant nor the two respondents were in court.
He noted that although the hearing notices ordered by the court were not served on parties, the fact that the 2nd respondent was in court showed more diligence on the AGF’s part.
The judge relied on the provisions of Order 19 Rule 15 of the court’s Civil Procedure Rules, to strike out the suit.
But he declined to award any cost against the applicant on the grounds that there was no evidence that hearing notice was served on the applicant.
The applicant, who claimed to be “suing as attorney to Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki,” listed the CCT and the AGF as respondents in the suit, in which he sought among others, to restrain the respondents from proceeding with Saraki’s trial.
Okponipere had prayed the court’s declaration that “the plan to resume the trial of Senator Abubakar Saraki at the CCT is a breach of his fundamental right to fair hearing as guaranteed by Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He also prayed for an order compelling the CCT and AGF to suspend indefinitely, any plan to resume the trial at the CCT.
Among the grounds relied on by the applicant, include that the trial at CCT was commenced at the wrong time, four years after Saraki allegedly committed the offences.
“It is nobody’s fault that the 1st and 2nd respondents were not vigilant enough to stop or prevent Senator Saraki from attaining public office. If truly the respondents were proactive institutions of government, they ought to have prosecuted Senator Saraki immediately after he left office as Governor of Kwara State in 2011, but they never did.
“The failure, refusal and/or negligence of the respondents to prosecute Senator Saraki for the offences he allegedly committed between 2003 and 2011 before he returned again to public life as a senator, vitiated all his past alleged misdeeds such that, as of June 8, 2015 when he was inaugurated as a senator, he was assumed to be a public office holder without blemish in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of the respondents, otherwise they would have long since initiated proceedings against him.
“The subsequent attempt to put Senator Saraki on trial over offences allegedly committed between 2003 and 2011 are not only tainted with political mischief and desperation, they constitute a breach of his fundamental right to fair hearing,” Okponipere said.
However, in a notice of preliminary objection, filed on behalf of the AGF, Mr. Abubakar Malami, the prosecution faulted the suit and urged the court to dismiss it for lacking in merit.
The AGF noted that the subject matter of the suit did not fall within the provisions of chapter four of the Constitution, containing the guaranteed fundamental human rights.
He argued, “The appellant lacks the locus to institute this suit on behalf of Senator Saraki in the absence of any legal basis which prevents him (Saraki) from deposing to the affidavit accompanying this application himself.”
“The grant of the applicant’s reliefs will constitute an abuse of court/judicial process having regard to the fact that the subject matter of this suit has been determined by the Supreme Court”.